The cultural and social life of Jews in Lviv in the 19th – the first half of the 20th century. Part 1

Lviv TIC - November 8, 2018

The ‘Golden’ period for Lviv Jewish community was a time of the reign of King Jan III Sobieski (the 16th – the first half of the 17th centuries). Not only did he grant them many privileges but also favored some Jews such as Dr. Emanuel de Jonas, who became his personal doctor, and Betsal (Bezalel), a royal tax collector. Many Jews attained a high social status as financiers, doctors and teachers in this period; their religious and cultural spheres of life were developing quickly. The period of the Austrian Empire, which lasted from 1772 to 1918, was more difficult for the Jews since they had to fight for their rights and try hard to preserve their traditions as well as together with new movements and changes create their own cultural identity. As it was already mentioned, Lviv was a city with several religious movements that coexisted and were in conflict with each other. Therefore, it was a time of active searching and challenges caused by modernization for all city communities, including Jewish as a second largest. By the end of the 19th century Lviv Jewish community had numerous synagogues, schools, libraries, hospitals, and philanthropic organizations. In 1910, the Jews of Lviv made up about 25% of the population and were of different professions (70% of lawyers, 70% of Chamber of Commerce members, 60% of doctors). About 1,500 Jews studied in Lviv University in 1910 (33% of all students), there were several Jewish student unions and Jewish lecturers. On the other hand, even though the community was the second largest there were still prejudices and restrictions. For example, in 1870 during the elections to the city council there was an unwritten rule that a Jew cannot be a mayor of the city, maximum a vice mayor. A similar situation was for Ukrainian-Rusyns, the third largest community. On our second route you will get to know the cultural and intellectual Jewish Lviv at the end of the 19th–beginning of the 20th century which life was abruptly interrupted the Nazi occupation.